I’m currently browsing through The Jesus Mysteries : Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God? and 101 Myths of the Bible : How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History. From the inside jacket of 101 Myths comes this description of the book.
This riveting and controversial book reveals how the ancient editors of the Bible used the myths and legends of neighboring cultures to build the foundations of the monotheistic religions of today.
101 Myths of the Bible exposes the contradictions embedded in many of the tales and events in the Old Testament, exploring the story behind the story to determine what really happened.
Greenberg unveils a long and continuous relationship between ancient Israel and Egypt, and directly links Egyptian mythology to Hebrew interpretation of and beliefs about its earliest history.
101 Myths is divided into three sections: Myths of the Beginning, Myths of the Founders, and Myths of the Heroes. Explained are how the forbidden fruit motif derived from Sumerian myths, how the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil represent the Egyptian deities Shu and Tefnut, and how Adam and Eve were the Egyptian deities Geb and Nut. The parallels between the Bible and Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian myths seem to be strong and numerous.
As for The Jesus Mysteries, its inside jacket has this to say.
Drawing on the cutting edge of modern scholarship, authors Time Freke and Peter Gandy present overwhelming evidence that Jesus of the New Testament is a mythical figure.
Far from being eyewitness accounts, as is traditionally held, the Gospels are actually Jewish adaptations of ancient Pagan myths of the dying and resurrecting godman Osiris-Dionysus. The supernatural story of Jesus is not the history of a miraculous Messiah, but a carefully crafted spiritual allegory designed to gudie initiates on a journey of mystical discovery.
The book poses a series of what if questions?
- there was absolutely no evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus?
- for thousands of years Pagans had also followed a Son of God?
- this Pagan saviour was also born of a virgin on the 25th of December before three shepherds, turned water into wine at a wedding, died and was resurrected at Easter, and offered his body and blood as Holy Communion?
- these Pagan myths had been rewritten as the gospel of Jesus Christ?
- the earliest Gnostic Christians knew the Jesus story was a myth?
- Christianity turned out to be a continuation of Paganism by another name?
A Jesus Mysteries Yahoo group has been setup to discuss the book and the question “Was Jesus an historical figure?” Some interesting discussions can be found there, as well as a list of reference material. Newsgroups such as alt.history and alt.history.ancient-worlds also carry pertinent discussions. This post to those newsgroups sums up some of the evidence questioning the existence of a historical Jesus. I’ll excerpt from that post here.
There was No Historical Jesus because:
- Contemporary writers say nothing till a century or so later (when they begin to repeat Christian sayings)
- The life of Jesus of Nazareth is not known until 2nd century (no 1st century writer knows anything about Joseph, Mary, Bethlehem, the miracles, the healings, the feedings, Gethsemane, the Trial, Judas, the Last Supper, Pilate, Peter’s denials etc, etc)
- The Gospels are not known of till mid 2nd century (Papias, Marcion, Justin)
- When the Gospels appear, they are admitted as not eye witness accounts (Papias, Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian)
- As the Gospels appear the Gnostics argue against a physical Jesus (Basilides)
- As the Gospels appear, pagans and Christians criticise the Gospels as fiction (Dionysos Corinth, Celsus, Porphyry)
- The Gospels are clearly inspired by a mix of midrash on the OT, and an influx of hellenistic paganism (a good book just out compares Mark to Homer – The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark by Dennis R. MacDonald)
By the same author is this intriguing Chronological History of the Gospels.
Anyhow, if you’re interested in ancient history and religion, give these books and online resources a read.